All of a sudden, heading out of Jalapa on the
way to Veracruz, I realize that Steffen is no longer behind me. I pull over to wait, hoping that he was just stuck at a red
light. After a couple of minutes I follow our plan of attack in case we get separated, of returning to the same place where
we last saw each other. By the time I pulled up Steffen was already hard at work changing his flat tire.
On the road in foreign countries we tend to be at the complete mercy of energies
beyond our control. We were hoping to make it to Veracruz before dark, but sometimes things don't go according to plan. As
luck would have it, thanks to the generosity of the two Ricardo brothers, we ended up sleeping in a semi vacant apartment
building (the blue one behind the store). We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, spending the evening telling stories and discussing
politics - all with the accompianament of some great Mexican salsa music.
Back on the road again the next day the terrain changed
considerably as we descended from the mountains down to the steamy costal plains of the Gulf of Mexico. In the distance we
could see the Volcano Pico De Orizaba.
Jan. 1st, 2003: This morning
I watched the sun rise over the Gulf of Mexico from the harbour in VeraCruz.
Steffen and I had heard that as opposed to the big midnight celebrations that we are accustomed to, the Veracruzanos bring
in the New Year by watching the sun rise on the first day of the new year. Following Emilio's advice we showed up on the Malecon
at 5am waiting for the festivities to begin. After waiting a while in the dark....and waiting....and waiting some more we
weren't sure whether this was the result of a good joke on a couple of gringos or perhaps just a dying tradition. We waited
for a little longer and then, a little dissapointed, drifted back to our hotel.
Steffen went back to bed, but I was still determined to discover some semblance of the festive tropical Carribbean
energy of VeraCruz that I had expected. Alone, I ambled back to the waterfront piers to catch a beautiful vista of the rising
Strolling back to the hotel, feeling satisfied that
I had at least seen a nice sunrise, I thought it amusing that I had come to VeraCruz looking for a big celebration only to
find dead streets and very few options for dinner the night before.
Then it happened: I walked around a corner and found
a block closed to traffic, a 12 piece Musica Tropical band belting out the sweet Cuban rhythms of Danzon, and about 10 couples
dancing in the street still sipping champagne from the night before.
I could not believe my fortune to stumble onto something
like this. Everybody was so alive and festive, the dancers appearing not to have a trace of self consciousness as they grooved
away under the first rays of the New Year's sun. This was the VeraCruz I had come looking for.